Personal

Not with a bang, but a whisper

Much as I love you humans – you’re quite my favourite species…aside from squirrels, of course – there are days when I’m convinced that you’re all doomed. More specifically, that you’ll blithely doom yourselves, due to your simple inability not to do shit that hurts you.

Some time ago, I’m waiting for the bus home, and a young guy in a T-shirt wanders up to me from the direction of the nearby hospital. He’s got a mostly shaved head with some impressive looking scars on his scalp, but without the usual small skull deformities that speak of inter-cranial surgery. He does, however, have a bandage around his throat, with a plastic insert over his Adam’s apple. When he speaks to me, he presses his thumb over the insert, and I can hear air whistling in an out of it where he’s not pressing hard enough to make a proper seal. The first time he speaks, I can’t make out what he’s saying at all. The second time, I get it, and I’m convinced the human race is doomed.

“If I give you some ‘baccy and a Rizla, could you make me a roll-up?”

I can’t abide smoking, though I know and love several smokers. I know it’s an addiction, perhaps one of the most insidious. I know how tough it is to beat, so I don’t nag or make faces or any of that bullshit. I stopped smoking over twenty years ago, and every now and then, when I catch a whiff of someone else smoke, I still get cravings. At weddings, the scent of cigars makes my hands shake.

But you know, when you’ve got a fucking hole in your throat with nicotine seeping out and staining your bandages brown, maybe now’s the time to think about quitting. So I turn him down.

“Sorry mate. Every time I’ve made a roll-up I’ve made a mess of it.”

He nods, willing to accept the lie. Eyes flicking hungrily to the next person in the bus queue, he turns away, unaware that he has just become the perfect metaphor for my most pessimistic view of humanity, and shambles into the uncertain future.

I for one welcome our squirrel overlords.

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